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Spiderman Construction Worker Escaping Fire Impresses Me

27 Mar

The latest viral youtube video shows a construction worker trapped on a balcony while the building burns. He hangs from one balcony and swings to another. That’s no easy feat. You can’t just jump straight down or you’d fall to your death.

Survival Lessons From The Video:

1. Are you physically fit? Even those of us in pretty good shape could have trouble with a jump like that! I pride myself on being in better shape than most, but I’m not sure I could have done that hang, swing, jump. The more physically fit you are, the better your chances of survival. No doubt this guy’s adrenaline was through the roof.

2. Can you hold your own body weight with your fingers? From a ledge and not just a bar? How’s your grip strength?

3. If you work up high or live above the second floor, do you have an emergency escape ladder or rope? Have you thought about how you’d escape a fire? Do you have an emergency fire escape hood?

4. Be careful when you weld. Don’t start a fire. The news say welding may have been the cause of the fire.

5. Is your workshop clean? Sawdust and today’s construction materials are very flammable. Get a Shop Vac. Don’t store extra foam insulation. I need to clear out some of that stuff myself. Fireblock, sheetrock, take steps to make your home less flammable.

6. Can you think under pressure? This guy clearly took his time to think through his options and decided he must act to get off the balcony.

7. Do you have the courage to make a risky move when you feel you absolutely must? How many people on the side of a mountain get to a safe place and are afraid to move from it. They hope help comes, even when they know it won’t. They freeze there. The courage to act under stress and risk is what separates great survivors, like this construction worker, from most of us.

I don’t know if he made the right decision or not. Would the ladder have reached him if he didn’t jump? Was it too big a risk? In retrospect, we never know. All we can do is take a survival situation as it comes and make our best decisions as we go or rely on previous training.

How To Prep For Top Five Disasters, Emergencies, And Life Events: Job Loss, Pandemic, Earthquake, House Fire, & Home Invasion

12 Apr

I can’t tell you how to survive any disaster. Nobody can. But over the years, as preppers, we’ve all learned some information about surviving various nasty situations. These are just my thoughts about what I consider five of the most likely emergency situations we’re likely to face.

1. Job loss. Not the zombie apocalypse or a nuclear war or even total economic collapse, just mundane job loss. Prepping is about making preparations before something bad happens. Once it happens, if you haven’t prepared, you have fewer options. This is especially true if you’re living paycheck to paycheck and you lose your job. Suddenly, life is difficult.

There are many good resources on the Internet to help you prepare with job loss. As with anything, use the power of Google to learn more. If you have a month’s supply of food, to save on your grocery bill, you can invade that. Having financial reserves is best. Keep your resume and references current. If you suddenly lose your job, reduce unnecessary expenses right away. The sooner you act, the more likely you’ll keep your head above water.

2. Pandemic. Now we’re prepping! Why pandemic? It represents about the worst disaster where our preparations can make a difference. Those who have read my book know I’m a prepper from way back. I actually own and read one of the earlier editions of Nuclear War Survival Skills (link to online edition above) back from the 1980s. Do I think I can survive a nuclear war? No way.

Do I think I’d have a good chance of improving my survival odds in a pandemic? Absolutely. The key is to isolate your family from contact with others as much as possible. Your supply of food, water, and cleaning products can make a difference. If you don’t have to venture out, there is less likelihood of contacting any socially transmitted illness.

Concern of pandemic is in the news today, because of events in China. An editorial in The Star Tribune  and others contemplate why tens of thousands of dead pigs and thousands of dead ducks  are showing up in China’s rivers.

They speculate this could be related to a virus. The Chinese government says it’s no big deal: Dead ducks just happen. Most of us know we can’t trust the Chinese government. The worry is that such a virus could mutate into a virus which could be transmitted from person to person. It could then spread worldwide.

If a pandemic hits, there are extensive preps you could have taken. You could wear protective gloves, wear a respirator or air filter, seal a room in your home with plastic and duck tape and filter air into it. You could even wear a simple hazmat suit when you venture out and establish a decontamination zone prior to entering your house.

Me? I’d probably just stay inside and bake cookies. Being able to hunker down for a month or two buys important time. Viruses don’t survive long when they kill off their hosts. They mutate into less harmful ones. Scientists would be scrambling for a vaccine.

If you can hold up for a month or two, you have a good chance of surviving. If you don’t meet a lot of strangers, you live in the country, and you have a three month supply of food and water, you’ll almost certainly survive.

3. Earthquake. This is largely a regional problem. If you live where earthquakes are a concern, there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself. My motto of earthquake prepping would be: Construction, construction, construction.

If you’re in a modern building up to code, the building probably won’t collapse. The advice then is to drop to the ground and cover yourself up as best as possible.

I get a kick out of the people taking cover under an IKEA table in the link above. The idea is that if you’re under a table, a broken lamp won’t smash you in the head. Still, an IKEA table doesn’t instill confidence!

Hiding under a table during an earthquake is common in modern areas.  Most people survive, but they do get…ah…a little shook up. The link above is to a nice first person account of surviving an earthquake.

Another nice account of the Christ Church earthquake is here.  This site has a nice list of things you might want to secure.

I don’t live in earthquake country and the table I’m at right now has pressed wood for legs. Furniture today isn’t built like it used to be. It’s much lighter. It’s seldom strong hardwood. Old growth dense-wood forest isn’t used for new construction of furniture. If you need to take refuge under a table, it should be a good one!

If you can’t find strong tables, consider making your own. If you’re not handy with woodworking, but you know how to weld, maybe make one out of strong tubular steel with a heavy wood top. That could offer considerable protection.

If you happen to be in a part of the world where shoddy construction is the norm, ducking under a table likely won’t save you from tons and tons of concrete falling on your head. Because you don’t want to get buried for a month, sipping sewage for sustenance, try to get out of the building and get far away from all structures. If the building density is high, you probably won’t be able to get to safety. Even if you make it to the street, buildings can fall on you.

4. House Fire. There are many great articles about what to do in a fire:

I don’t think you need to draw up a floor plan: You should know where the exits are in your own home! But the last two points in the second article are critical. In a fire, you might find you’re unable to open your eyes. Can you exit your home blindfolded? Keep low to the ground because that’s where the lowest concentration of smoke will be.

In the book and in blog posts here, I’ve written extensively about preventive fire safety. That all applies. The best way to survive a house fire is not to have one!

Fire safety applies to your home garage too. If you’re not careful, simple things can become serious, like this fellow who took his vehicle to a fast-oil-change-place and had his fuel filter replaced. His car burst into flames.

5. Home Invasion. This short Youtube lecture has some good advice about what to do to prevent/survive a home invasion.

A home invasion occurs when undesirable people enter your home—murderers, robbers, in-laws. As with home fires, the best way to survive a home invasion is not to have one.

Simple things like keeping your doors locked and not letting unexpected strangers into your home can minimize the dangers of this happening. Common advice is to have a “safe room” to retreat to. Have a weapon there so you can defend yourself. Have a phone so you can call the police. I would suggest you don’t rely on a chemical defense spray inside your own home, unless you have tested using them in confined spaces.

As with most prepping advice, you need to adjust it to your own situation. If you’re ex-military or police, you might feel very comfortable moving around inside your home, even if there are intruders present. If your family is dispersed throughout the house, getting everybody to a “safe room” might not be easy.

Some of the scariest home invaders masquerade as law enforcement officers. Others pose as repair people. If you have a bad feeling, don’t open the door and let the person/people on the other side of the door know you’re calling the police. You’ll open the door when you see police cars outside and when the police arrive.

It’s easy to understand why violent home invaders pose as police. If a bystander sees what’s going on, it creates doubt in his mind. Maybe these are real police just doing their job. The bystander won’t call the police. It creates doubt in the mind of the defender too.

If you see three guys in hoodies kicking your door, you’re not going to hesitate to grab your shotgun. If it looks like three police officers are trying to kick in your door, you’re much more likely to think they just made a mistake and have the wrong house.

In other posts we wrote about information denial. If somebody casing your house can see through many open windows, they have a good idea of how many people are in the home. In a story about a home invasion, a lady was accosted by a guy with a gun outside her home. He asked her: “Who else is inside?”

She said her children. He entered the house. I’m not a big fan of bluffing. But, maybe if she had said, “My husband, and my cousin who’s living with us. He’s a Marine back from the war and you know, he’s having problems with PTSD and he has these anger issues…please don’t hurt his pit bull.” that might have created just enough doubt to send the invader away.

I’m not saying that’s the right or wrong thing to do. I wasn’t there so I couldn’t judge the guy’s demeanor. The most important thing in any disaster, emergency, or stressful situation is to try to keep calm and keep your wits about you. Think on your feet. Then roll with your decisions.

Charlie Palmer  -author The Prepper Next Door

Balloon Construction & Fire Blocking

1 Jan

In the chapter of the book talking about the prepper’s home, I introduced fireblocking, with a focus on basement remodeling and understanding the fundamental concept. Fireblocking is one of those topics that serious preppers should learn about.

For preppers living in homes made before 1945, it’s possible your home has “balloon construction” exterior-wall framing. In a fire, these homes are an absolute nightmare. Once a fire finds its way into a wall, it will spread rapidly from any level up into the roof.

Every winter, I see a news story about a home that goes up rapidly in flames where older home construction methods are blamed for the rapid spread of the fire. Balloon construction is the exact opposite of proper fire blocking.

This Old House explains balloon construction.
(I couldn’t get the video to play. I saw the program on TV when it aired). If your home has balloon construction, you should work to properly fire block it.

This pdf goes into detail about fire blocking basics. It has nice pictures to illustrate the concept.

This Youtube video (from derrich773) shows how small openings in wall cavities should be sealed:

As explained in the video, if fire finds its way into a wall cavity, the fire wants to consume oxygen. Openings around pipes and electrical wires create a path for air to flow into the fire, feeding the fire and pulling it into the wall cavity.

Charlie Palmer, author The Prepper Next Door.

Fire safety is an important topic for preppers. Fires are most dangerous when we’re asleep. We have smoke detectors to wake us up. Here’s a neat story about Cluck Cluck the pet chicken, who woke up his owners and saved them from burning.

Here’s a nice article about winter driving on The biggest problem is that most people drive too fast in the winter and then lose control of their car. As the article says, if you lose control, you should try to steer in the direction you want to go. Keep these two things in mind and you’ll be safer than most people.

The majority of Americans are against an “assault weapons” ban.

Some 5’5″ lady pushed a guy onto subway tracks. While most preppers probably don’t take subways, this story provides a good lesson about self defense. Pay attention to your surroundings and personal space. If somebody is mumbling incoherently and then comes up behind you, you could be attacked. If you’re standing where somebody could bump into you and push you to your death, stand somewhere else.

Fire Safety, Smoke Detectors, Extinguishers, Construction, & Escape

14 Aug

As preppers, we should prep for the most likely scenarios, emergencies, and disasters first. Fire safety is one area where our preparations make a difference today. It’s not as exciting as prepping to fight zombies, but it can save your life.

1) Smoke detectors should be in your home. These alert us to a fire and give us time to escape. If you want the best protection consider having two different types of detectors: photoelectric and ionizing. The photoelectric ones are more likely to spot a smoldering fire early.

2) To put out smaller home and workshop fires, fire extinguishers should be available. Here’s a nice “Know Your Fire Extinguisher ABCs
To be prepared for most home fires, you want an ABC rated fire extinguisher. This will let you put out wood fires, gas and oil fires, and electrical fires.

To use a fire extinguisher, you can learn the PASS method.
PASS stands for Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep. Pull the safety pin on the extinguisher, aim the fire extinguisher, gently squeeze the handle, and sweep the extinguisher across the base of the fire.

Removing the safety pin and aiming should be pretty self explanatory. The safety pin is obvious: The handle can’t be used without removing it. Aiming should go without saying. The SS part is easy to mess up: Shoot, Swear? Shoot, Spread? Those of us with bad memories could spend ten minutes trying to remember what SS stands for.

The way I remember it is that you don’t want to blow flammable materials all over the place. Fire extinguishers put out fires by smothering or chemically reacting with the fire. They don’t blow out fires. Go easy on the trigger handle until you know just how powerful the blast from the extinguisher will be. Don’t make the situation worse. Aim at the base of the fire and move the extinguisher back and forth across the entire fire.

Here’s a nice video (ABC News) of some newbies learning to use extinguishers:

On youtube, a few years ago there was an amusing video of a fire safety demonstration gone awry (somewhere in Eastern Europe I believe). To put out the fire, the demonstrator let fly with the full force of the extinguisher and blew flammable materials all over: Spectators were running around and patting out fires on their clothing; people stomping out burning embers everywhere. Nobody was hurt, so it was kinda funny. (I tried to find the youtube video to show you, but couldn’t find it.)

3) There are other specialty products to help you escape a fire. Fire escape masks give you more time before the smoke will do you in. These have two downsides: They’re expensive, and they don’t last forever.

If you sleep in the second floor of your home, you can purchase emergency fire escape ladders. Trace at has a great blog post about fire escape ladders. The lesson is important: test your preps. It’s better to try things at your leisure than need them to absolutely work or else you die. Who needs the stress of needing to figure things out at the last minute? If your ladder won’t hold on the edge or some other problem develops, you want to know before the actual fire.

4) Conduct A Fire Drill. This is related to testing your preps. Many people purchase alarms, but don’t ever conduct a single fire drill. As children, we all thought school fire drills were silly, but hey, they took us out of world history class.

Many of the employees at Morgan Stanley in the World Trade Center thought fire drills were silly too: They just got in the way of getting real work done. But the head of security, Rick Rescorla, demanded them. As a result of his planning and drilling, nearly every single employee of Morgan Stanley was able to successfully evacuate the World Trade Center during 9/11. (To learn more about Rescorla’s brave actions on 9/11, see: The Unthinkable: Who survives When Disaster Strikes—and Why by Amanda Ripley)

5) If you’re older or disabled and can’t get down a ladder easily, move your bedroom to the main level of your house. In the book, we discuss egress windows and basements extensively. If you have an older home with small basement windows, escaping a fire emergency could be difficult if you’re not physically fit. We don’t want to get trapped in the basement or on the second story.

I’ve been told burglars hate to go into upper home levels or into the basement because they fear a homeowner will return and they’ll be trapped. They prefer to stay on the main level too! It’s easier to get out of a house quickly if you’re on the main ground level.

6) Consider a sprinkler system
These offer the absolute best chance of putting out a fire inside the home before it kills you. The big downside: They’re expensive. It’s no small job to retrofit an older home with one of these systems. These systems freak me out, because I fear they’ll accidentally go off and destroy all my books and soak the house’s structure. Bye, bye wooden floors. Bye, bye carpet. I’ve been told that’s an irrational fear and that these systems are nearly bomb proof.

Here’s a youtube video of a guy having a really bad day at work because of a sprinkler system that gets damaged:

If you have a home sprinkler system, know where the shut off valve is so you can manually disable the system. Even then, these systems are designed to put out a lot of water and quickly soak everything. As with many things in building code, home sprinkler systems are a political issue: Some lobby for; some lobby against. One side will win, and we’ll either be required to have these in new homes or not.

7) Give some thought to your home’s construction. Some new homes can burn faster than older homes. This is because older homes used old, dense wood. Lumber like that isn’t even available anymore for new construction. Those trees grew for hundreds of years. Wood chips glued together to make a “board” is a common theme of building today. This affects the flammability of the structure.

8) Give some thought to the exterior construction of your home and the surrounding environment. In the book, I talk a bit about the exterior of your home and how it affects your home’s risk to firebomb attack. A more basic concern for many people in wooded areas is making your home resistant to wildfires.

Here’s some good information ( (  about hardening your house against wildfires.
(Picture page 4 of this PDF shows parts of home that are attacked by smoldering embers.)

The upshot of this information is that wildfires create embers and the embers attack your home. If an ember reaches your house, you don’t want it to start a blaze. Dry leaves in a gutter are bad, but stubby water-retaining plants to keep embers from blowing onto your house are good.

9) Give workshops special attention. In the auto repair section of the book, one website I meant to include, but forgot, was Here is an unfortunate story of a workshop burning to the ground (
Workshops need special attention for several reasons. One is that we often keep flammable materials in our workshops. How many garages don’t have a 2- or 5- gallon gas can? Toss in WD-40, oils of all kinds, solvents, and welding tanks, and we have a pretty volatile collection.

The comments to this post are well worth reading. The reply about properly venting a fire cabinet is especially good.

Not only do we store flammable things, we create them. How many workshops have huge sawdust jackrabbits everywhere, created from years of woodworking projects? Keeping a shop clean and free of sawdust is important.

For homeowners, many of us do metalwork in addition to woodworking in the same shop. Sparks flying from a welder and sawdust in corners is a particularly bad combination. Sharpening a lawnmower blade on a bench grinder creates sparks too. Where will the sparks from your grinder land? Organize your shop to maximize fire safety.

Before you begin and after you finish any project, fire safety should be considered. Is your shop sufficiently clean for welding? Is there an excessive odor from some flammable chemical? Do you need to dispose of some oily rags? Try to clean up after every project.

10) In the workshop and home, electrical fires are a hazard. One study said there are about 150,000 home electrical fires annually. Tools should be unplugged when not in use. Wiring should be safe. Electrical fires start because damage to a wire allows a bit of current to leak out and find an errant path to ground.

If this errant current has a solid conductor to ground, a circuit breaker will trip, or a fuse will blow. What sometimes happens is that there is a high-resistance path to ground. Current flows, but the circuit breaker doesn’t trip. Meanwhile, the path is heated, and a fire can start.

Arc faults are one source of electrical fires. Modern circuit breakers called Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI) are designed to trip if they encounter arc faults caused by damaged wiring. The downside: Sometimes these things trip for no apparent reason.

If old wiring has damaged insulation, an arc can jump between the hot wire and the neutral or grounding wire. The path taken by the arc heats up.

Extension cords, tool cords, and other electrical appliance cords should be in good condition. If the cord has been abused or repeatedly bent, a break in the wiring can lead to serial arcing, where current flows along a wire, hits a small gap, arcs across the gap, and continues down the wire. The gap heats up dangerously.

Go over your preps for fire safety. A bit of knowledge and planning can go a long way to assure your family will be safe during a fire emergency, and can help minimize the chances of winding up with a fire in the first place!

Charlie P, author – The Prepper Next Door: A Practical Guide For Disaster And Emergency Planning.

Great, one more thing to worry about—an amoeba up the nose.

July has been the hottest month in recorded weather history

Here’s another nice 72-hour survival supplies list from

Here’s a thoughtful article ( about when to stop prepping (or when your preps are adequate).

Yippee! Demcad on Youtube mentioned my book:
(Demcad is one of my absolute favorite preppers on youtube.)